Essential Management Skill: Being Visionary

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Eric Frederick |

Columnist says skill involves processing information, seeing future direction

ROANOKE, Va. — Last month, I discussed the need to be able to organize a laundry into an efficient operation. The second major skill a manager needs to be really successful is to be a visionary person.  

By this, I do not mean a manager who likes to sit in his office and daydream about what else he could be doing. A visionary manager diligently stays abreast of all the developments in the laundry industry and the industries they service. They do this so they can provide the best service to their customers in an ever-changing market.

Most importantly, a visionary manager is able to process this information and see the future direction of the market. The visionary manager is able to analyze their laundry’s strengths and weaknesses, the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, and then foresee opportunities for their laundry to beat the competition and meet the needs of a segment of the industry.

This type of manager does not want to follow the crowd but instead wants to be the leader.

When I worked in Roanoke, Va., my laundry was up against several strong, competitive laundries. One was extremely good at selling the carpeted areas of healthcare facilities, but often failed to deliver the promised level of service and never at the price point it promised. Linen loss charges and surcharges often drove the price higher than expected.

Another competitor sold strictly on price. Their linen quality and processing was often poor, but the price always turned out to be what was promised. Frequent shortages were the norm, but facilities put up with the service because of the low price.

In this market, there was one section of the industry that was underserved and needed better alternatives. The upscale nursing home market needed and wanted a better, more comprehensive level of laundry service. 

They wanted high-end motel/hotel linens for their independent living and rehab areas, tablecloths and napkins for their dining area, and regular healthcare linens for their more skilled nursing areas. They wanted to get out of the laundry business entirely and needed someone to develop an easy-to-manage system for personals. 

We identified one potential customer not too far from our facility and started working with some of their staff to develop a system that would meet their needs. Our groundwork included product selection, frequency of deliveries, how linen would be delivered and stocked internally, and the development of a good personal linen processing system. 

They were getting ready to put out a request for proposal (RFP) for linen service in several months. We were able to get the customer and put the proposed service into action. We kept an open mind, as it related to handling personal linen, and made some quick adjustments in the laundry on the fly. Both the laundry and the customer are pleased with the service.

There are several other large, upscale nursing homes in the laundry’s service area that are now considering this service. At the time we decided to enter into this market, the conventional wisdom was that the nursing home market was a low-price, low-profit area of business; this market was not worth the effort to cultivate. There is always a danger in using too broad a brush to paint the picture of an entire industry. A visionary manager can see the trends in the industry and realize the opportunities before others can see them.

RELATED STORY

Essential Management Skill: Attention to Detail, Jan. 4, 2018

About the author

Eric Frederick

Eric Frederick served 44 years in laundry management before retiring and remains active in the industry as a laundry operations consultant. You can contact him by e-mail at elfrederick@cox.net or by phone at 540-520-6288.

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